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February 17th - Reminder of Rebellion

Reminder of Rebellion

(Deuteronomy 9 - 11)


Moses Teaching in the Wilderness

Artist Unknown


Today’s Bible reading continues Moses’ second sermon to the Israelites, not long before his death and the people’s long-awaited entry into the Promised Land. In this section, Moses took a tough love approach, reminding the people of their transgressions and urging them towards obedience to God.


Moses proved positively parental, and his lessons may prick the consciences of all of God’s children throughout history and today.


A Stiff-Necked People


Quoting the Lord, Moses called the Israelites a “stiff-necked people” (see Deuteronomy 9:6 and Deuteronomy 9:13). This exact phrase occurs nearly twenty times in the Bible, referring to the rebellion of the children of God:


Exodus 32:9,

Exodus 33:3,

Exodus 33:5,

Exodus 34:9,

Deuteronomy 9:6,

Deuteronomy 9:13,

Deuteronomy 10:16,

Deuteronomy 31:27,

2 Kings 17:14,

2 Chronicles 30:8,

2 Chronicles 36:13,

Nehemiah 9:16,

Nehemiah 9:17,

Nehemiah 9:29,

Proverbs 29:1,

Jeremiah 7:26,

Jeremiah 17:23,

Jeremiah 19:15

and Acts 7:51


Do we see a trend?


What does it mean to be stiff-necked?


Recently, several friends returned from a short-term missions trip to the Middle East, where they met many tribal peoples. Often, they saw lovely ladies wearing metal chokers that extended their necks stiffly to greater heights than they otherwise would be. However, these women were not stiff-necked people. At least, not in the way Moses described.


Have you ever had a stiff neck? Personally, I have suffered from this malady plenty, in the physical and spiritual senses. Having endured many migraine headaches, I know the pain of a tense and stiff neck. When the neck muscles contract, the entire body may be restricted.


Spiritually speaking, a stiff-necked person has serious handicaps. A stiff-necked person does not have the ability to lean on others for strength or support. A stiff-necked person is unable to look to the left or the right, insisting instead on continuing his or her own stubborn course. A stiff-necked person cannot humbly bow the head to confess his or her rebellion in prayer.


How we may regret our moments of stiff-neckedness. How many of God’s blessings may we have missed, simply for inflexibility? How gracious is our God, who does not let go of us, even during such times.


A Frustrated Father Figure


Despite the perennial rebellion of the people he was called to lead, Moses never ceased loving them and interceding for them. As readers, we cannot miss his frustration, which he frequently expressed. Still, Moses prayed for the people constantly, seeking the Lord’s promised grace. And he repeated his teachings, urging them to turn their heads from their rebellious ways and seek the face of the Lord.


What an example Moses sets for parents and all who are called to lead others, both young and old. Although he clearly grew miffed at the masses, he never seemed to lose sight of the fact that they were turning against the Lord, even more than they turned from his leadership. The rebellion was much more spiritual than personal.


What a powerful truth for parents. Even as our children may rebel, often the real battle is occurring in the spiritual realm. Like Moses, we can pursue the most powerful and effective leadership strategy of all and pray for those we are called to lead.


Will you pray with me?


Merciful Lord,

You never let go of us.

What a wonder.

Break the stiffness

Of our necks.

Help us to cast off

All that binds us

From obeying You.

Guide us to pray

For those we lead.

Remind us

That all rebellion

Truly is based

In the spiritual battlefield,

Where You have already won

The eternal victory.

Lead us to prayer

For those we lead.

When we grow frustrated

With ourselves and others,

Nudge us to know

That You have not let go.

We praise You.

Amen.


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